In my previous blog post, I explained the dangers of sitting at a desk for 8+ hours a day, multiple days a week and the things you can do right away to alleviate some of these problems (if you missed that post, you can read it here). One of the methods I wrote about was stretching and exercising the areas that are tense, tight, or damaged in order to improve these issues. I promised that I would go into more detail about these stretches and exercises, and in today’s blog post I do just that.
Let me begin by painting a picture of the “desk worker”. The “desk worker” sits at a computer for extended periods of time throughout the day. He/she tends to have a rounded upper back, protracted shoulders, and a forward head posture. He/she also has a curve in the lower back that causes an anterior pelvic tilt. This posture results in head, neck, shoulder, trapezius, and lower back pain/tension/tightness. It also causes the worker to have a very shallow breathing pattern, leaving them stressed, more tense, and with headaches.
Does this sound familiar? I am willing to bet that most people reading this article who have a desk job are now paying attention to their body and realizing how much pain they are in or how tight they actually are.
The good news is that these postural issues can be fixed with a few easy stretches and exercises that can be done right in your office (and you won’t even look silly!). Today I want to provide you with a description and a video for a few exercises you can do everyday to relieve you pain and tension.
*Below are instructional videos for the stretches and exercises I speak about in this blog post. These exercises are not demonstrated by me but are demonstrated how I intend them to be executed.
In my opinion, the worst symptoms from sitting at a desk all day occur in your neck and shoulders. Bad posture with your head and neck can cause problems all the way from the top of your head to your toes. Holding tension in your neck from bad posture can lead to major headaches and neck pain. Your head is way heavier than you realize, and your body is built to hold it up in a certain position. Bringing your head forward (like when sitting at a desk) puts strain on muscles that are not meant to be holding your head in place!
The Neck Stretch
Sitting in your chair or standing up, reach around with your left hand while tilting your head to the left. Use your hand to gently pull on your head, feeling a stretch down the right side of the neck and shoulder. Hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
When you sit at the computer typing all day, you tend to let your shoulders fall forward. This posture causes your chest muscles to adapt and stay in this position even after you leave your desk! It causes your breathing to become shallow, not allowing you to take the deep breaths that you should be taking. After you perform this stretch take a deep breath. It may be the first real deep breath you’ve taken in years!
The Door Chest Stretch
While standing in a doorway, place your arms up on the sides of the door and place one foot forward through the doorway. Next, bend the front knee until a stretch is felt along the front of your chest and shoulders. Your upper arms should be horizontal to the ground and forearms should lie up along the sides of the door.
Even Easier- The Standing or Sitting Chest Stretch
In a seated or standing position, take the arms behind you and, if you can, lace your fingers together. Straighten the arms and gently lift your hands up a few inches until you feel a stretch in your chest. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
As stated above, when you are sitting at the computer typing all day your shoulders are most likely hunched forward. Besides all the negative issues it causes for your chest muscles, it also cuts off blood to your traps and neck, causing tightness in those muscles as well!
Seated or standing, lift the shoulders up towards the ears, squeezing them as hard as you can. Hold for 1-2 seconds and roll them back as you relax down. Repeat for as many repetitions as you feel comfortable then roll the shoulders forward.
When seated for extended periods of time, your glutes and hip flexors will get very tight. Many people don’t realize how tight these muscles are until they begin to stretch them. Give it a try and feel how tight you actually are.
Seated Hip Stretch
While seated, cross the right ankle over the left knee. Gently lean forward, keeping the back straight and reaching out with the torso until you feel a stretch in the right glute and hip. You can also press down on the right knee to deepen the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Your Secret Weapon – Band Pull Aparts!
The stretches and exercises above are great ways to relieve tension and pain from your incorrect posture. This exercise below, however, will be how you actually fix your posture problem. Using this exercise multiple times throughout the day, even for just a few repetitions, will get your shoulders used to being pulled back instead of hunched forward. Eventually, your shoulders will adapt and stay in the correct posture, alleviating so many of your problems!
Begin with your arms extended straight out in front of you, holding the band with both hands. Start the movement by performing a reverse fly motion, moving your hands out laterally to your sides. Keep your elbows as straight as you can while you perform the movement, bringing the band to your chest. Ensure that you keep your shoulders back during the exercise. Pause as you complete the movement and squeeze your shoulder blades together as hard as you can, returning to the starting position under control.
Quick Tip: In my last blog post, I talked about setting an alarm on your phone to go off every once in a while to remind you to get up a move around. It would be great to also take a few minutes and do some of these stretches. Trust me, you will feel much better!
If you guys enjoyed this post and would like some more exercises to help ease your pain, please let me know. I can always make a part 2!